Young Adults Having Less Casual Sex

By Amy Norton
HealthDay reporter

TUESDAY, March 30, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Although they belong to the generation of dating apps, young adults largely say no to casual sex, and less alcohol and more video games are two reasons, suggests a new study.

Surveys in recent years have shown that, compared to previous generations, today’s young adults are not as interested in “hooking up”.

The new study is no exception: it found that between 2007 and 2017, the number of Americans between the ages of 18 and 23 having casual sex declined. Among men, 24% said they logged on in the past month, up from 38% a decade earlier. Among women, this figure rose from 31% to 22%.

The question is why, said study author Lei Lei, assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ

She and her colleague, Scott South of Albany University in New York City, have uncovered some clues. In young women, a simultaneous reduction in alcohol consumption seems to partly explain the decline in casual sex.


It was also a key factor among young men. But two other trends also seemed to interfere with their sexual activity: online gambling and living at home with their parents.

Lei said the results may surprise some people.

“Given the prevalence of dating apps, you might expect an increase in casual sex,” she said. “But there are other factors you need to look at as well.”

Alcohol can make sex more likely, so it makes sense that the decline in alcohol consumption has been a factor in decreasing rates of casual sex, Lei said.

For men, this explained 33% of the drop in connections, while for women, it represented a quarter, according to the results.

What’s surprising, Lei said, is the fact that no further explanation has emerged for young women.

This was in contrast to the young men. To at least some, online video games seemed more appealing than sex: an increase in gambling accounted for 25% of the decline in casual sex among young men overall.

Living with parents, meanwhile, has cramped some men’s style. This trend explained about 10% of the decrease in casual sex.


Joseph Palamar is associate professor of population health at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, New York.

He agreed that the drops in alcohol use and casual sex come as no surprise.

“Alcohol is the primary social lubricant used not only to meet partners, but also to relax before possible sexual interaction,” said Palamar.

But the results raise a bigger question: Do all of these trends – less alcohol consumption, less casual sex, more video games – reflect a general deterioration in the social lives of young people?

While they venture out into the world less often than previous generations, Lei said, the decline in casual sex may be just one manifestation.

These days, Palamar noted that “the stimulation can be achieved in the blink of an eye from your device, which is at hand. Suddenly, sex may not be as interesting as a video or a video. game. Alcohol and other drugs suddenly may not be so interesting., Either. “

That’s not to say that devices and social media are the only culprits. In this study, for example, investigators found no evidence that time spent online explained part of the decrease in casual sex among young women.


And Palamar pointed out another social change: There is generally less pressure on young people today to find a soul mate and get married.

“Now it’s socially acceptable to just be single and stay home and do your thing,” he said.

It takes a lot more research to understand all of these trends. Lei said that if young people socialize less, at least face to face, it is important to know why and what consequences this could have.

Even when it comes to casual sex, it’s hard to define decline as “good” or “bad,” according to Lei.

On the one hand, she said, it could mean less unplanned pregnancies and less risk of sexually transmitted diseases. On the other hand, some young people find unconditional sex a positive experience and part of their social development. In some cases, Lei says, these encounters can serve as a “trial” for a longer-term relationship.


The results, recently published in the journal Socius, are based on surveys of around 2,000 young adults.


Since the study period ended in 2017, Lei said, it’s not clear how more recent social changes – from the pandemic to the “Me Too” movement – can affect the sex lives of young adults.

More information has more on the transition to adulthood.

SOURCES: Lei Lei, PhD, assistant professor, sociology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ; Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, associate professor, population health, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and affiliate researcher, Center for Drug Use and HIV / HCV Research, NYU School of Global Public Health, New York City; Socius, March 1, 2021, online

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